Thursday, November 7, 2013


Take the time to retreat from your day-to-day routine, and make a genuine effort to reconnect with yourself and your natural surroundings.

Seek to retreated to open, empty places, places which were not created, bounded or defined by Man. Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit. In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion. Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. Wild loneliness, ringing like a bell. Cultivate that sense of connection to something far greater than your Self in a place which is not controlled by mankind and is not in thrall to us. Appreciate that sense of smallness, from which can come greatness.

Withdraw not with cynicism, but with a questing mind. Withdraw so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you. Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance—refusing to tighten the ratchet further—is a deeply moral position. Withdraw because action is not always more effective than inaction. Withdraw to examine your worldview: the cosmology, the paradigm, the assumptions, the direction of travel. All real change starts with withdrawal.

You are not necessarily running from anything; rather, feel drawn towards something. Not just that old connection with the wild spirit of the world which you once found and can still sometimes find in the green open places, but also a search for a place in which your mind can be still, and there is nothing in your head. Activism, journalism, even family life: all of these require you to play a role, to take positions, to stake claims, and all of those things in turn can scream at you, use you up, ossify you. Old, rigid trees are the ones that come down when great storms blow; it's the flexible saplings that survive.

All great artists, Bob Dylan once said, must be in a permanent state of becoming. I like this phrase. Becoming is not achieved amongst the everyday, or not only there. Becoming needs withdrawal. Something has to be sought, and found.

There is something out there, beyond the rational mind, beyond the everyday commitments, beyond the cities in the valleys and the cities in our heads, which we need and have needed for much longer than we would care to admit. Every spiritual code, every religion, every indigenous culture, every society, in fact, before the advent of modernity, has seen an act of withdrawal from the excesses and excrescences of the world as a spiritual necessity. The lives of the Christian Desert Fathers, the khalwa of the Sufis, the Dark Retreats of the Taoists, the exercises of St Ignatius: days, weeks, months of withdrawal were, still are, central to all major religions. The retreat to the desert or the forest, and the return with wisdom to the village or the town, runs like a silver brook through our folktales and fairytales, myths and legends. There is a reason for every story.

Sometimes you need to go, and sometimes you need to stay away for some time. The world we have created is terrifying in its complexity and power and in its ability to destroy the small, the precious, the immeasurable and the meaningful, inside you and in the places around you. Perhaps to a political activist, sitting by a stream in a forest seems like self-indulgence in the face of mass extinction and climate change, but it is the opposite. If you don't know why that stream matters, you are not equipped to protect it. If you have forgotten how to listen to it, you may end up on the wrong side, as so many have before you.

If you don't go out seeking, if you don't retreat, if you don't put yourself into the wilderness with nothing to carry you, you will never see what you need to shed or what you need to gain. You will never change. And if you never change, neither will anything else.

You are Blessed. You are Loved. Aloha Ke Akua 

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